Jim Cummins cummins at
Mon Feb 7 00:17:55 EST 1994

In article <940204193015417 at>
yolanda.gurrola at (Yolanda Gurrola) writes:

> In the case of the defective embryo, I am not to sure what researchers
> should do.  Defective embryos are still humans you know.  We should be
> careful and really examine the pros and the  cons of human cloning.
You've got to be careful here.  Is a parthenogenetically cleaving
embryo a human? Is a triploid embryo human?  Is an oocyte that is
penetrated by a sperm but  that does not divide human?  Most of these
abnormalities are eliminated by natural selection during the course of
pregnancy.  The big problem is the old mistake of equating potential
and actuality: an oak tree is not the moral equivalent of an acorn? 

People like to try to set moral absolutes on embryos when in fact the
transmission of life forms part of a continuum.  As Grobstein put it
over ten years ago (from memory) "Life ebbs and flows in its
complexity, but is never completely absent"  The sperm and the egg are
not dead, and life doesn't start afresh at each fertilization "event"
(even that "event" is a mistake, as fertilization is a process taking
around 18-24 hours, and the embryonic genome doesn't start to turn on
for another 36-48 hours). 

Jim Cummins                   
School of Veterinary Studies
Murdoch University
Western Australia 6150  Tel +61-9-360 2668 Fax +61-9-310 4144
"An inordinate fondness for Beetles"

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